Police Agencies Find Many Rape Charges ‘Unfounded’

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The Baltimore County Police Department is one of a number of law enforcement agencies nationwide with an alarming record of dismissing rape cases, concludes a BuzzFeed News analysis of FBI data. These departments routinely mark an extraordinary percentage of rape allegations as false or baseless — “unfounded.” In Scottsdale, Az., for example, 46 percent of rape reports were ruled unfounded between 2009 and 2014. In Oxnard, Ca., more than half of all rape allegations were classified as unfounded. In Pittsburgh, the number is 30 percent. In Baltimore County, it’s 34 percent.

It is implausible that this many victims are making up rape allegations, experts say, raising questions about how seriously police treat sexual assault claims and how likely they are to be biased against women who report them. The national average for unfounded rapes among police departments nationwide is 7 percent. While these data are not perfect, they offer the best available window into police practices nationwide. To understand how and why police toss out rape cases, BuzzFeed News requested detailed case files for “unfounded” rape reports from more than a dozen police departments with high rates of these cases. Most declined, but Baltimore County provided a year’s worth of documents from 2014. It amounted to 42 case files. An analysis found disturbing patterns, including that police routinely did little to no detective work, labeling rape reports unfounded after cursory interviews with the victims.

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